Berry Berry Good
More than half of
U.S. kids pick strawberries as their favorite fruit. No wonder. The fruit is
pretty to our eyes, sweet to our taste, and juicy in our mouths.
Wild strawberries grow on every
continent except Africa and Australia/New Zealand. But you wouldn't want to eat
some of them. Often, they are really small and tasteless. Some aren't even red.
So how did the strawberries you buy at the store or from
roadside stands get to be SOOOOO delicious? Click here for
grandparents of today's strawberry come from two different
continentsNorth America and South America. And they accidentally met and
started producing a new type of strawberry on a third continentEurope.
This happened about 250 years ago, probably in a botanical garden in France.
1500s, explorers brought one of the grandparents back to France from Virginia.
This Virginia genotype got their attention because
it had larger fruit and a deeper red color than the European strawberries of
that time. And it produced more berries.
But it had to wait nearly 200 years
for the other grandparent to arrive from South America.
In the early 1700s, a
French spy spotted this strawberry genotype in Chile while he was making maps
of Spanish forts. Plants of this genotype produced really big
berrieslarger than the spy had ever seenso he brought a bunch of
them back to France.
Trouble is, they didn't reproduce in France. Not until
scientists called horticulturists
(hor-ti-CUL-chur-ists) planted them next to the Virginia genotype. BINGO, they
started producing baby plants. You see, all the plants from Chile were female
and needed pollen from other strawberry plants to produce fertile seeds.
It wasn't long before a new
strawberry was born. The horticulturists
named it Fragaria x ananassa.
Time Out for a Quiz!
How many seeds in a single
a) 50 b) 100 c) 200 Answer
The baby berry was such a success
that its great-great-great-great grandchildren are grown around the world
today, mostly in the northern hemisphere. The United States is the leading
producer and supplies about 20 percent of the world's strawberries. Next are
Spain, Japan, Poland, Italy, the Korean Republic and China.
Every U.S. state grows strawberries
that have been specially bred for that region of the country. California grows
about three-fourths of U.S. strawberries. Florida is the next largest producer.
All the different varieties grown in all the different countries can trace
their ancestry back to the marriage of the Virginia and Chile strawberry in
Europe 250 years ago.
Another Time Out
Strawberries are related to what flower?
How did the strawberry get its name?
Strawberries today are susceptible to
a lot of diseases, and growers would like them to be more resistant. They would
also like their plants to bear fruit earlier in the season and to make other
improvements. The only way to do this is to change the plants' genes.
To find out how
scientists are doing that .
By Judy McBride, formerly
Agricultural Research Service, Information Staff
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